Sunday, April 30, 2017

Dai Hanya 2017, Day 1

Another year, another big Dai Hanya event. This is the 2-day yosakoi (Japanese style cheerleading dance) festival and contest generally held at the beginning of Golden Year (last year, it had been postponed until June because of the Kumamoto earthquake). This year, there were 88 teams, for a total of 1,000 dancers, mostly from around Kyushu, but a couple groups were from the main Honshu island. I had to work on Saturday, but I did have 2 hours free between lessons from 4 PM to 6 PM, and I recorded 6 of the teams down at Dolphin Port. The dance sites were scattered around Tenmonkan, Dolphin Port, Central Park, and the main train station. The dance teams performed at several of the sites through out the weekend. I liked it a lot, and wasn't really happy that I didn't have enough time to visit any of the other dance sites...

I took about 20 photos, and distilled them down to the 3 here (plus the two I used for titlecards). For the most part I concentrated on recording videos because the entire point is to watch the dancing along with the music. The teams represented universities, ramen restaurants, onsen resorts (hot spring spas) and even Kyushu JR (the Japan railway company).

Direct video link to part 1

Direct video link to part 2

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Ajin, vol. 10 review

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Ajin, vol. 10 (Good Afternoon, 2016-17), by Gamon Sakurai. Grade: A-.

At the end of the last volume, Kei had decided to give his mother a phone call before disappearing for good. While the defeat of the Ajin Collection Agency at the hands of Satou's group probably means that his family's phone isn't being tapped anymore, Kei figures it would be safer to call the hospital his sister is being kept at. He pretends to be a nonexistent uncle, and when his mother gets on the line, she berates him for joining forces with Satou. He tries to correct her, and she then asks how he could be so stupid as to try to go against someone so much more powerful than him. She tells him to go ahead and run away, maybe drown himself in the ocean and wash up somewhere else that's safer. He hangs up, saying that she's acting just exactly the way she always does. His mother returns to Eriko's room, and then has to explain why her son, the "cold" one, is fighting the terrorists. Their mother says that Kei takes after her, and Eriko takes after their estranged father. When Kei was 9, he said he wanted to become a doctor in order to help find a cure for Eriko. His mother had been an ER doctor at the time, and she knew what was needed for getting a medical degree. There was no choice in Kei remaining friends with Keito. It's not that Kei is cold-hearted - he's just pragmatic and focused. Eventually, Eriko starts worrying about her brother's fate, and cries herself to sleep. Her mother quietly adds that unfortunately, Kei has a bit too much of his father in him, too, and that he'll probably do something stupid, like not run away. Regardless, she hopes he'll keep himself alive.

("You blame Kei for abandoning Keito, because Kei's trying to save you means that you're partly responsible for all this, right?")

Then we get a flashback for Yuu Tosaki. He'd tried proposing to his girlfriend, Ai (hence the joke title - You and I), and she'd turned him down, in part because she wasn't ready, and partly because she didn't want anyone accusing her of marrying him for his money. He'd stated that he'd do anything for her, and she tried to get him to promise not to do anything bad. Now she's in a coma in the hospital, and Tosaki leaves the engagement ring with her before going out to the parking lot, where his junior, Sokabe, is waiting for him. Sokabe wants Tosaki to step down from his post in the Ajin collection group, but Yuu refuses. Sokabe tries to threaten him for hiding the existence of two of the Ajin - Kou and Youko. Tosaki just glares at him, replying, "Who knew that gutter rats had dreams of greatness." Tosaki gets in the car with Youko, who comments that he's still going to keep fighting. He swallows a handful of breath mints and tells her to drive to the safe house.

(Suzuki tells Ogura that the last 40 pages of Harry Potter are the best.)

Then we get another flashback, this one for Ogura when he was still working at the Ajin research center in the U.S. Turns out that the American approach is vastly different from the Japanese one of torturing, maiming and killing Ajin prisoners. Instead, two of the researchers and two of the subjects are Ajin, and they're all pretty much working together voluntarily. The Ajin all have ankle GPS trackers on them, though. Ogura was brought in recently, and he keeps smoking cigarettes within the non-smoking areas. He's developed a theory regarding Ajin and the black smoke (IBM), saying that it's coming from outer space, and that there are two conditions for someone turning Ajin when they're killed - a strong feeling of "have I lived my entire life already", and a heavy concentration of black smoke in the area. The one Ajin researcher tells him to cut the crap. If he'd wanted fantasy, he'd read Harry Potter. The other, a rare female Asian Ajin named Jun Suzuki, comments that when she first died, she'd been reading Harry Potter and was really anticipating the last 40 pages. Jun has an almost unpleasant happy streak, and she adds that those last 40 pages were great. We're also told that there are 5 known Ajin types in the U.S. The two stranger ones are "furaddo" (flood?) and "narikake." The "furaddo" type seems to have the greater control over ghosts. (Ogura also mentions that he has a large stock of his favorite cigarettes stashed away, and that if he ever runs out of them, he thinks that he's going to die.)

(Ai tells Yuu that she's not going to marry him right now, and that she doesn't want him to do anything bad on her behalf.)

This takes us to a period shortly after Satou participated in the ill-fated Viet Nam exercise to rescue one of the American prisoners of war. Satou is back home, but needs to use a wheelchair because he's missing the leg below his right knee. He spends most of his time in the game arcades, where he's gotten really good at the console machines. When asked, he answers that it's just a matter of constantly plugging in more coins at the Game Over - Continue screen. Later, he's approached by an uncle on his mother's side, who wants him to join as a look-out for his yakuza gang. Satou initially says he's not interested, until one of the dumber-looking thugs mentions that Japan is the home of all the best new games. A few days later, Satou is playing a Gameboy, ignoring what his uncle is saying, when a rival Chinese gang drives up to the building and starts shooting everyone. When the smoke clears, Satou is the only survivor of the carnage - even his Gameboy took a bullet through the screen. He comments that he's lost his meal ticket. 5 years pass, and the Chinese gang leader has finally tracked him down, and has him pinned to a shipping container with knives through his hands. The guy wants revenge, and asks if he has any last words. Satou says "I got high score," then the guy shoots him in the head. A few seconds later, Satou is free and halfway through killing the guy before realizing that he's still alive and his leg is regenerating. He comments that apparently someone put another coin in the machine.

Back in real time, Satou's telling his group that they're going to need to prepare for the last wave in their bid to take over Japan for themselves. But, Tanaka is tired of the killing and wants out. Satou catches him in the hallway of the abandoned building they're camping in, and gives him a hard drive he claims that he found in one of the offices of the Ajin research group when he was wiping them out. Tanaka agrees to look at it, as the two druggie members of the group hide around the corner and smile. The programmer preps some kind of code and puts it on the server to launch.

(Game Over - Continue? "Yes.")

The Japanese government announces a new Ajin research group, tied up with the author that had stated in a previous volume that Ajin are evil and must be destroyed. The chairwoman of the new group vows to protect society from all Ajin. Then, in the safe house, Tosaki and Youko meet up with Kou. Tosaki wants the other two to go into hiding so he can fight Satou by himself. Youko refuses to abandon her boss. Kou wants to keep fighting, too, but is very dismayed to see that the other two have no hope of winning. Suddenly, Kei enters the building like he'd never left. As Kei tries to predict what Satou will do next, Tosaki gets a message that their enemy has announced when the last wave will start - in 19 hours. With no time to get new partners, new weapons or to even develop a plan, Kei states that the only choice is to go full-out and just fight to defeat Satou. Elsewhere, Satou's server prints out "Starting Final Wave" on the monitor.

Summary: This volume has the most amount of information on Ajin so far, and provides backstories on several of the characters. The art is getting better, too, and things are going to explode quickly. Highly recommended. (One more note - one of Tosaki's former bodyguards, the one that wanted out of the job at the beginning of the fight in the Forge building, survived. He was taken to a hospital and handcuffed to the bed. He suddenly woke up, pulled the IV needle from his arm and used it to pick the cuffs. He's last seen stumbling through the hallways to freedom.)

Friday, April 28, 2017

Trick Art at the Reimeikan

The Reimeikan history museum is hosting a trick art exhibit from Apr. 28 until May 7th. 1,000 yen ($9.50 USD) for adults (I found a flier that had a 100 yen discount coupon, which was nice.)

Not including the obvious one beside the door, there are 7 ninja hidden in this picture.

This one's one of my favorites.

This is the other one.

And a good time was had by all.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Urology Poster

There was a big urology convention at the Volunteer Center last weekend. No idea what kiriko (Japanese cut glass) has to do with urology...

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Despicable Me Photo Op

Movie stars always look bigger on the screen.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Jan.-Apr. articles in the media

Here's the batch of articles to show up in the media from Jan.-Apr., regarding anime, manga and related stuff.

Japan Times

'Your Name.' to be released with English subtitles

Japanese folklore meets anime in Kyoto

'Wrong About Japan': A travelogue from the home of anime, manga and 'otaku'

'Slam Dunk': Japan's greatest sports manga?

Manga legend Jiro Taniguchi, a bridge between Japanese, French cartoon art, dies aged 69

Write-up on Marjorie Liu

Leiji Matsumoto surfs the floating world

Daily Yomiuri

Ashizuri aquarium review

Anime boom in China heats up, unaffected by chilly ties

Unveiling the world of voice acting

Mangaka spreads his wings from forerunner’s home

The Louvre presents manga as art

AI no Idenshi review

JR East launches Dragon Ball stamp rally

Genshiken review

Ikenami's novels made into hard-boiled anime

White Note Pad review

Hayato, the gale review

Venezia review (by Jiro Taniguchi)

ACCA TV anime review

'Golgo 13' gives lessons to firms on safety overseas

"One Room" TV series comments


'One Piece' fun run to return to Okinawa in March 2017

New 'Yu-Gi-Oh' feature film to open on Jan. 27 in North America

'Your Name.' pop-up cafe in Nagoya caters to hit movie’s fans

Drawings from Osamu Tezuka’s student days a rare discovery

A'Pretty Cure' series set to mark 14th year with a cute title

With giant expectations, 'Attack on Titan' to hit the stage

'JoJo's Bizarre Adventure' live-action film to open Aug. 4

'Dragonball Super'enters new 'Universe Survival' chapter

Netflix to stream 'Cyborg 009' worldwide in early spring

Blockbuster 'Your Name.' set for April release in North America

'Touken Ranbu' back for more anime action on TV this July

Studio Ghibli's 'The Red Turtle' wins prize at Annie Awards

'Your Name.' novel headed for 22 countries, regions

'Ancien and the Magic Tablet' to kick off Yubari film festival

Warner Bros. films a key test for adaptations of manga titles

Voice cast unveiled for first 'Godzilla' anime film adaptation

'Space Battleship Yamato'-themed Skymark jet about to take off

'Sailor Moon' 25th anniversary events move into high gear

'Mazinger Z' in movie comeback after 45 years off TV screen

Matsumoto's manga meets ukiyo-e in limited print run

Biggest Detective Conan Cafe to open in Tokyo's Harajuku

'Corner of the World' wartime anime draws in older folks

'Sailor Moon' musical to hit U.S. stage for first time in April

Tokyo hotel courts 'Gin Tama' fans with themed guest room

Author Aramata to take over as director of Kyoto manga museum

Sendai to stage month-long 'JoJo' summer festival

Live-action film 'Fullmetal Alchemist' to open on Dec. 1

Noboru Iguchi's horror anime shorts to premiere April 2

Some of Japan’s oldest existing animated shorts streamed online

'Your Name' Takes Adolescent Identity Crises to Extremes

'Evangelion and Japanese Swords' show hits Sendai

'Naruto' anime sequel, featuring son of ninja, starts its TV run

Guts and co. return in highly anticipated series 'Berserk 2'

Stage adaptation of 'Captain Tsubasa' set for Tokyo in August

Monday, April 24, 2017

KYT TV Spring 2017

The really big event this last weekend was the KYT TV Festa, which was broken up into three locations. The main one was in Central Park, with satellites in the space next to Lotteria, and at the Volunteer Center. The Lotteria spot was just a play space for small children and wasn't worth taking  pictures of. I swung by the Volunteer Center on Friday when they were still setting up the tables and booths, and most of that looked to be just food booths. I didn't have time to visit when I was at the school on Saturday (which would have been the best time to go, because the school is just a few blocks away from the Volunteer Center), and I was a bit pinched for time on Sunday, too. But I don't think I missed anything.

All I really cared about was the live stage in Central Park. They also had food, drink and activities tables here, which was good. The weather was great, too, and I ended up getting a mild sunburn after being outside for 2 hours. I grabbed a bacon and cheese hamburger for 700 yen ($6.80 USD), which was ok. The HHAE Mars Distillery, located at the south end of Kyushu, which makes whiskey and shochu, was also selling large glasses of their gin on the rocks for 400 yen. That was definitely good, and a good deal. I like their whiskey, and I think I'm going to have to get a bottle of their gin for mixing with tonic sometime.

The main point of the festa was to advertise KYT's weekly TV line-up. I don't have a TV, so I didn't care about any of that.

Balloon animals for the kids.

Balloon bumping for kids of all ages.

There were a few hundred people at the park on Sunday, enjoying the rare good weather (it had been raining heavily during the week.)

This was a bit weird. The two female MCs announced the presence of the masked Butt Slapper.

He prances about the stage for a while, acting menacing.

The two woman played rock-paper-scissors, and the winner takes her position on the stage. BS swings and pretty much misses.

The MC gets her chance for revenge, and sends the guy flying. Everyone waves to the crowd, Butt Slapper goes back off stage, and the MCs announce the next stage act.

There's a recording studio in Kagoshima called Walk-In. They have some local acts signed up, and they host Walk-In Fest live shows every few months. Between 2 and 4 PM on Sunday, Walk-In Studio had 3 of their acts playing at the KYT event, in part to advertise the next concert in May. Here we have Pupupu, a 3-woman group that was kind of marginal. I only took a couple photos for the blog and didn't bother recording them.

They were followed by Goh Wakamatsu, who was also kind of ignorable.

The only group I had any interest in at all during the weekend was the second band by my favorite SKA leader, Bon - ARTS. Bon leads both ARTS and Bon DX. Of the two groups, I'd have to say that ARTS is the most polished, professional one. LOTS of fun to watch and listen to. Unfortunately, I didn't have an opportunity to say hi, or pose for photos with them this time.

Good times. The rest of the day was spent editing the videos and fighting with Microsoft Live Movie Maker and Youtube in getting the below videos finished and uploaded (Movie Maker crashed several times, and youtube crashed Firefox three times. Sigh.)

Direct youtube link, part 1

Direct youtube link, part 2

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Wanwan Festa 2017

Finally, a busy weekend. I had to work most of Saturday, so I wasn't able to see much of the Wanwan Fest (Doggy Festival) this time. Mostly, though, it was just a chance for dog owners to get together and show off each other's dogs, and look at accessories.

I was on my way to the school, and the stage was between events at the time.

Not everyone was into cosplay. I think this guy was roleplaying as The Incredible Hulk.

Bunny girls are always a big draw, too.

Get your photo taken with the doggy mob.